Grammar Lesson: Comma Use Study Guide
After reviewing this study guide, test your comma knowledge with these practice activities:
A comma probably has more rules and uses than any other punctuation mark. Below is an important comma rule.
- Use commas to separate items (words, phrases, and clauses) in a series.
- James enjoys playing tennis, soccer, and basketball. (words in a series)
- The troop traveled into the mountains, across the plains, and along the river. (phrases in a series)
- The car dealer made sure that the purchaser's car was clean, that the license plates were ready, and that the ownership papers had been signed. (clauses in a series)
Note: If all the items in a series are joined by and, or, or nor, commas are not required.
- The chef's exquisite dishes include filet mignon and roast beef and lamb.
Note: If the conjunction and joins words that constitute a unit, team, or such, do not separate that name. Yet, you will still need the commas to separate items in a series.
- Peanut butter and jelly, ham and eggs, and spaghetti and meatballs are the children's favorite foods.
Note: Some writers choose not to include the final comma in a series if by leaving the comma out, the meaning is still clear.
- Our social studies class members studied the Korean War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. (It is clear that the social studies students studied four wars.)
Here are some useful rules when you are working with commas.
- Use a comma after Yes and No when these words start a sentence.
- Yes, we have the show's starting time.
- No, there are no bananas in that store.
- Use a comma both after consecutive introductory prepositional phrases and after a long introductory prepositional phrase.
- In the middle of New York City, the traffic is very heavy during rush hour.
- In the World Series' final game that was played in 1960, the Pirates hitter whacked a home run over the left field wall.
Note: A comma can be placed after a short introductory prepositional phrase if the sentence's meaning and flow are improved by the comma. Read the sentence aloud to see if a comma is justified.
- In the first instance, the dog was in the back of the van. Without Greg's assistance, Ricardo would have spent many hours on that project.
- Intrigued, the young child looked into the fishbowl.
- Motivated by their drama coach's remarks, the cast members worked even harder than before.
- Before we started our vacation, we had the mechanic check out our car.
Note: In most instances (unless the sentence's meaning is unclear), an adverb clause that follows an independent clause is not preceded by a comma.
- I cannot recall a single instance when Jimmy was inconsiderate.
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